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Improve Cost Effectiveness of Your Recycling Program, Part 1

Ah, that magical moment when you lift up the couch cushions to clean and find money that had fallen between the cushions. It’s never enough for big expenses like the rent or mortgage, but sometimes it can be enough to get something you didn’t think you had enough money for, especially if you save it up over time.

A while back, I wrote a couple of blog posts about funding. They focused primarily on outside funding. But rather than just looking for outside funding sources, are there opportunities to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of your existing program? If you take advantage of those opportunities, would it be like finding extra money in your couch cushions, money that you didn’t realize you had? What items on your wish list could you fund if you took advantage of those opportunities?

One often overlooked opportunity is collection efficiency. Recycling does not increase the total amount of waste that you generate. Recycling takes a portion of that waste and diverts it out of the trash into another container or containers. As a result, the more you recycle, the fewer the amount of labor and financial resources you should have to dedicate to trash collection. That should offset most or all of the resources you are dedicating to recycling collection. How are your resources allocated? Are you still allocating the same resources to trash collection that you were before you started recycling? Are you paying an entire second crew to go around and empty recycling bins from the exact same locations from which you have already paid someone to empty trash? If you could eliminate those redundancies and better balance the allocation of those resources, what else could you fund? Could that get you the extra recycling equipment that you have been wanting, without needing funding from outside donors?

Another overlooked opportunity is routing. If your recycling program involves emptying toters or dumpsters at each building, how you travel between the buildings matters. If you are a very large campus with a lot of stops, it may be worth investigating some of the professional routing software that is used by some professional haulers to optimize their routes. However, even if that is not an appropriate option for your size, less advanced forms of routing can still provide a significant benefit. Spending some time with a campus map looking at your route with your drivers can sometimes provide some significant efficiencies. If nothing else, just identifying a few big time killers (e.g. you need to get that stop first thing in the morning or else traffic on that road is so bad, you are going to spend hours idling in traffic) can provide significant benefits. Can that routing efficiency eliminate some overtime costs and free up some funding for the piece of equipment on your wish list? Or can it free up some labor so that you actually don’t need the additional labor that you were looking for outside funding for?

And never overlook safety when it comes to your existing costs. How much are you spending on worker’s compensation costs? How much are you spending in overtime or temporary labor to cover for a worker out on an injury? If the equipment on your wish list would help to avoid a workplace injury, is there funding on campus that would purchase that equipment based on the injury-related costs that the equipment would offset?

Before you look to outside funding sources, are there savings within your own program or on campus that can help you with your funding? Sometimes realizing those savings is like finding the loose change in the couch cushions – it can be the little bit extra that you need to get you what you want.

Written by

Roger Guzowski
Roger Guzowski

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